Resurgent Spalding reach RFU Midlands Senior Vase semi-finals after victory in Warwickshire
Spalding notched up their third away win in a row to reach the semi-finals of the RFU Senior Vase, Midlands Section, at the expense of Warwickshire-based Manor Park.
Having elected to play with the slope advantage in the first half, the Elephants impressed with the way they retained possession, set up rucks and recycled the ball quickly, mainly through the forwards.
Flanker Harry Cole used his pace and power to create an opening after six minutes and when he was tackled, Ash Anker continued the momentum and scored under the posts.
Conall Mason added the conversion, allowing Spalding to set the tone for the match with a lead they never lost.
Manor Park lined up with a strong pack of forwards who were never allowed to take control of the match, although Spalding's Luke Turner was called up by the referee for obstructing play around the tackle area, giving away a penalty which the home side converted.
Ten minutes later, Spalding were penalised for holding onto the ball after a tackle and another long- range penalty brought Manor Park back into the match.
Despite this, Spalding’s lineout was working well, with Anker supplying scrum half Wilson Taylor with good ball.
It was from one of these lineouts that player/coach Harry Sharman broke free to score under the posts for a converted try.
Manor Park had further chances to reduce the lead as the referee was managing the breakdown strictly, awarding two penalties in quick succession.
While their first penalty hit the upright, the second sailed through to reduce the visitor's lead to five points.
But this only spurred the visiting forwards on to drive forward,with Ryan Chappell making good yardage and John Barrett , along with Pete Waudby, prominent as Spalding established themselves deep in Manor Park’s 22.
With their ruck established and Sharman acting as a scrum half, he spotted a gap in the Manor Park defence and went unopposed under the posts.
After another successful conversion by Mason, the referee blew for half time with Spalding leading 21-9.
The Elephants made changes at the break as Ben Shields was replaced by Taylor Crowson who went to full back, with Gav Sharman moving on to the right wing.
At this point, Manor Park upped their game with some big carries by their number eight and right winger.
But Spalding’s defence, led by captain Dan Adams, held firm as he stormed into every tackle, well-supported by fly half Mason, who was having another good game, and Willis Ingleby in the backs' division.
With the home team making little headway, their frustration built up and the Manor Park lock was shown a red card for a highly dangerous shoulder charge which connected with Anker’s head.
Turner reacted to the challenge, earning himself a yellow card and giving rise to a period of play where both teams lost concentration and composure.
Sharman and Miguel Da Silva joined Turner in receiving yellow cards, as well as a Manor Park player.
But it was the home team who capitalised as they encamped in Spalding’s half before a strong scrum, followed by a quick tap penalty, caught the visitors napping and again the lead was downto five points.
However, both of the Elephants' wing players were now finding space and Callum Lewis featured as he gathered several high kicks and counter-attacked.
But it was a superb kick by Mason, deep into open space, that saw Gav Sharman race down his wing, outpace the defence with a clean pick-up and go over for Spalding’s fourth try of the afternoon.
This sealed a deserved away cup win at the Nuneaton club, the only one out of the four quarter finals, after an excellent team performance.
SPALDING: Waudby, Barrett, Turner, Anker, Da Silva, Cole, Chappell, Harry Sharman, Wilson Crowson, Mason, Lewis, Adams, ingleby, Shields, Gav Sharman.Subs: Crane, Taylor Crowson, Greaves.
More by this authorWinston Brown